I was one of the fortunate people who had access to treatment for my addiction problem. Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Treatment was sort of a “last resort” for me. At first, I wasn’t even willing to admit my drug and alcohol use were a problem. Instead, I blamed the people and events happening around me for the consequences of my behavior. When it finally occurred to me that substance use might be to blame, I still resisted. I tried to stop on my own, attempting to change my behavior, at times substituting one substance for another or trying to cut down. It didn’t work. My addiction just got worse and worse. Finally, I was ready to admit that I needed a little help—and check into an inpatient treatment center.
I’ve written about this before, but it took me a few tries for the whole sobriety thing to stick. I would go to a treatment center, leave, immediately return to my old behaviors, and be back using and miserable in record time. It was totally unsustainable, and something needed to change. What I needed to do was take a good look at the choices I was making and figure out where I was going wrong. I needed to focus on life after rehab.
Things started to change when I started following the advice of people who knew better than me. Crazy, right? Who would’ve thought. Instead of focusing on getting back to my old life as quickly as possible, I focused on recovery. Looking back, I’m not sure what the appeal of my old life was anyway. I moved into a sober living house near my treatment center and gave up on trying to move back to the city I had been using in. Instead, I got a low-stress job and really focused on my recovery—going to lots of meetings, doing sober activities, and relaxing and taking care of myself. This ended up being a great decision because I had the time and energy to build the skills and habits to have a normal, happy life in sobriety. A lot of those things had gotten lost during my addiction, or maybe I never had them in the first place.
Once I figured out how to live life sober, things got a lot easier. Hearing about what I should be doing in rehab or in meetings wasn’t enough. I had to learn through experience and trial and error. I learned (or remembered) how to do things like build a routine, show up to work on time every day, keep my living area clean, do my laundry, feed myself, and exercise. Not to mention having fun—I had to figure out things I could enjoy sober besides just sitting around the house wishing I was drunk or high. And as I learned to have fun, as my life began to feel complete, the desire to use started to fade away.
Today I have what most people would call a “normal life.” I have a full-time job, I pay my own bills, I take care of my responsibilities. I have multiple years of sobriety and still attend meetings regularly. Life feels full and complete, but it didn’t just happen the minute I put down the drugs and alcohol. Like any other skill, I had to learn how to live.